Writers Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat: Stop Dominican Abuse of Haitians

Washington D.C. Across the Dominican Republic, over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent are languishing in limbo following an inhumane ruling retroactively stripping them of citizenship, and the violence and intimidation that has followed. Now, many are afraid of being forced out of their communities and into squalid refugee camps along the Haitian border – like countless others – just because of their ethnicity.

Diaz_2012_hi-res-download_3MacArthur Fellows Class of 2012 Junot Díaz Fiction Writer. Photo: Wikipedia.

Advocacy Day Background

A 2013 court ruling stripped over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship retroactively going as far back as 1929. The Dominican government has created the largest population of stateless people in the Western Hemisphere even as the Obama Administration continues to provide them with aid. Furthermore, the Dominican Republic continues to systematically disenfranchise and target Dominicans of Haitian descent, rather than allowing them to fully contribute to the country of their birth.

Edwidge_Danticat_by_David_ShankboneEdwidge Danticat by David Shankbone (2007). Photo: Wikipedia.


In response to international outcry and condemnation by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Dominican government put in place as “solution” in the form of the 2014 Naturalization Law. This law only further codified discrimination against Dominican citizens by separating Dominicans of Haitian descent into 2 groups: those with birth certificates versus those without. As such, they are second-class citizens in their own country. Although 55,000 people with birth certificates had their citizenship restored, few of them ever received their documents from the government.

Without proper documents, the second group was required to register as foreign legal residents-not citizens- in their own country even after undergoing a complicated process to prove that they were born in the Dominican Republic. When immigration authorities show up in predominantly black neighborhoods, they make no distinction between a Dominican with or without papers versus a Haitian migrant; in the eyes of the government they are all “illegal.”

As a result, countless numbers of Dominicans of Haitian descent have found themselves rounded up and expelled to Haiti, in direct violation of human right and international laws.  A substantial number of these individuals have become refugees living in impoverished refugee camps. The government has even gone as far as to annul the birth certificates of Dominican human rights activists who have spoken up about this pattern of abuses.

Congress can no longer turn a blind eye to these human rights violations occurring in the Dominican Republic. They ask that:

  1. The House re-introduce and ultimately vote for passage of H. Res. 443- 113th Congress (2013-2014), which is a resolution expressly condemning these human rights abuses.
  2.  Congress write a public letter to Secretary John Kerry asking that the U.S. State Department investigate the ongoing issues resulting from the poor implementation of the Naturalization Law.
  3. Congress holds a hearing is held to hear testimony from those facing statelessness in the DR as well as experts on this ongoing crisis.

Despite all the Dominican Republic’s claims otherwise, the vast majority of Dominicans of Haitian descent are still stateless, facing expulsions or worse. As the DR’s #1 trade partner, the U.S. government has a moral obligation to ensure that principles of human rights are promoted to protect vulnerable people in our own backyard.

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John Laing is a writer based in New York with decades of non-profit experience.

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